The Design Thinking Club events help to explore techniques, reveal new methods and strategies to implement design thinking in practice within organizations and businesses. One of the best places for innovations, amazing ideas, entrepreneurship and design thinking is Stanford University. Stanford's faculty and alumni include Nobel laureates and have started many famous companies. According to Forbes, Stanford has produced the second highest number of billionaires of all universities in the world (1). Stanford was chosen to hold the second event for the Silicon Valley Design Thinking Club (svdt.club), and the event theme was Finance Technologies. The FinTech term applies mostly to financial corporations, but in the 21st century, the financial sector innovations involve other industries and startups. The svdt.club event introduced two speakers, one from a large financial conglomerate and the other one from a small startup. Since Design Thinking experience did not have borders, the methodology applied to both entities was similar.
The first speaker, Abhijit Thosar, the VP of Customer Journeys & Design Thinking of BNP Paribas shared experience on how to apply design thinking to spot opportunities for innovation in the financial services. Abhijit is a Stanford GSB LEAD alumni and a Product Design Leader with over 20 years of global industry experience. He has a proven track record of helping companies apply Design Thinking to gain deep user insights, innovate on product and service experiences, deliver business value and differentiate in the marketplace. Today’s bank industry experience extensive disruption across all aspects of the business. Сheck the report of FinTech services adoption by EY.
Abhijit provided insights on how large global banks are responding to changing customer expectations and behavior through design thinking. He indicated how main Design Thinking phases like Emphasize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test work in BNP Paribas.
Empathy is one of the central concepts in design thinking for FinTech. It separates design thinking from any other creative process. Empathy is about being sensitive to, being aware of, and vicariously experiencing the experience, thoughts, and feelings of others (2). This is about putting aside personal ideas for the better understanding of the reason why customers behave and think the way they do (3). In design thinking, BNP Paribas evaluates the issues that upset customers instead of assuming to know the answer. The bank management goes to the bank branches, watch customers interact with tellers, talk to them, let them play around with the bank’s banking app, and even invite them to a focus group. The management also observes their customers’ facial expressions, their body language and try as close as they can to relate to their feelings.
After empathizing, the second important phase the bank carries out in design thinking is “Define.” BNP Paribas assemble all its research and check where problems associated with product or service usability exist. The bank highlight opportunities for innovation by pinpointing the unmet needs of its users.
The third phase is the “Ideate.” Through this phase, BNP Paribas brainstorm a range of creative ideas that can address the unmet problems that users face.
The fourth phase used by BNP Paribas in design thinking according to Abhijit is the prototype. BNP Paribas designs a model that assists weigh the feasibility vs. impact of their ideas and make them understand the components of their idea that work and that does not. They rely on feedback to adapt their concept and finally make them as tactile and real as possible.
The last phase of design thinking is testing of the idea. The banks take the prototypes to the users, allow them to interact with them and ask for feedback. The banks have to verify the prototypes are able to achieve the goals of every user before they execute their vision.
The second speaker, Andrew Kuzmin, presented his company overview, personas and the challenge of global payment acceptance. Andrew is the founder and CEO of International Educational Platform LingoCard. The platform promotes the in-depth study of foreign languages, improving vocabulary, mutual communication of people of any nationality for language practice, and one of the feature at question was - making mutual payments for training. He talked about student/teacher user journey, how it is challenging at the moment to make cross-border transactions. After we proceeded to the discussion of cryptocurrency usage in mutual statements, and how smart contracts can streamline the arrangements. The aim of his speech was to present his vision and discuss with the audience aware of the benefits and drawbacks of using cryptocurrency as a global currency, and whether this feature differentiates his service.
Cryptocurrency uses private and public keys, which facilitate secure transfer of funds between two parties. These funds allow users avoid the steep fees that most financial institutions including banks charge for wire transfer. Through cryptocurrency, people are able to make cross-border payments, mutual statements, and smart contracts to fix the arrangements with minimal processing fees.
Central to the function and appeal of cryptocurrency is the blockchain technology. The blockchain technology secures cryptocurrency from the threats of hackers by providing an online ledger account of all transactions that people have conducted using bitcoins. The technology also ensures that the ledgers are downloadable on all computers that run the Bitcoin application (4). The users of every ledger must verify every new block generated on the market, making it harder for hackers to forge histories of transactions.
However, there are several problems associated with cryptocurrency that have made it difficult to penetrate the world market, since it is completely distributed and there is no single point to control it. The absence of control center is something that hold adoption due to governance and legislation questions. For instance many governments, financial institutions, and people are afraid that a computer crash can wipe out digital cryptocurrency balance if there is no existence of a backup copy of the holdings since cryptocurrencies are virtual and do not have a central repository (5). Moreover, the rate at which countries currency can be exchanged with cryptocurrency can fluctuate widely since prices are based on the law of supply and demand. Lastly, the transactions of cryptocurrency make it well suited for a host of nefarious activities like tax evasion and money laundering.
The question stated and discussed with the participants was whether challenges associated with cross-border transaction overweight issues attributed to a cryptocurrency nature. The answer could be “yes”, since teaching and learning might be easy looking from one angle. However, it was essential to verify some assumptions regarding people learning and teaching. Suppose they were fine to use sophisticated cryptocurrencies. Would it be easier for them to deposit and withdraw money in comparison to common payment methods? What about an exchange rate students comfortable with the cost fluctuation? We revealed user experience challenges that deserve investigation before investing into the cryptocurrency payment mechanism development. In fact, the main aspect to consider was whether cryptocurrency as a feature attracts or scares off customers.
Do you think that global by design business models, which are not focused on FinTech, should care and even more, invest into FinTech features to attract clients? Please share your thoughts and stories.
We highly appreciate the contribution and support of our team to this blog:
Rimma Klokova thank you for photos, media, and content.
Pavel Azaletsky thank you for content.
(1) Cam, D. (2017, October 19). The 10 Schools That Produce the Most Forbes 400 Billionaires. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/denizcam/2017/10/17/the-10-schools-that-mint-the-most-u-s-billionaires/#29e36f254d52
(2) Lisa, J. (2018, January 30). Design Thinking: The Hottest New Trend in Banking. Retrieved from https://thefinancialbrand.com/70152/design-thinking-banking-financial-innovation/
(3) Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Bernarda, G., & Smith, A. (2014). Value proposition design: How to create products and services customers want. John Wiley & Sons.
(4) Bhatia, S., & Chethan, S. (2017). Bitcoin: The Future of Money. Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 12(22), 6215-6218.
(5) Bunjaku, F., Gorgieva-Trajkovska, O., &Miteva-Kacarski, E. (2017). Cryptocurrencies - advantages and disadvantages. Journal of Economics, 2(1).